Maceo Parker | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
What about the band? Maceo Parker and crew do it to death at Ardmore
There were a few recurring mantras when Maceo Parker hit the stage at a sold-out Ardmore Music Hall on Saturday, January 8th. One was “Make It Funky” – the veteran saxophonist’s theme song of sorts. As Shaun Brady discussed in his interview with Parker earlier this month, the man has worked under James Brown and George Clinton in his storied career, resulting in a unique blend of showmanship that launched with “Funky Fiesta” and rolled across two hours into “Soul Power.”
Then there was “What about the band?” – a phrase that Parker interjected at turns throughout the set whenever it came time to showcase one of the seven players joining him. What about the band? Rodney “Skeet” Curtis takes a deep bass solo on the second song of the night. What about the band? Greg Boyer flexes his trombone muscle and Will Boulware dives into his keyboards. What about the band? The stage clears out so Bruno Speight can rule hard on an unaccompanied guitar solo. What about the band? Martha High sings lead front and center for a glorious, all-too-brief song. What about the band? Dennis Chambers demolishes his drumkit.
There’s a saying people have about musicians who have, eh, made a few more trips around the sun than the rest of us – Bob Dylan springs to mind – where “you don’t go to the show to see them, you go to see the band.” Parker puts a unique spin on this idea: at 73, his saxophone playing is in superior form, and he could carry the show on his own or in a small ensemble. It just so happens that he takes a team of top-notch contemporaries and followers on the road with him: you go to see Maceo AND the band.
The final theme of the night, and it kept coming up again and again – “It’s all about love.” Parker clearly derives his drive from his devotees, and he’s not shy about expressing this, and the high point of this funky fiesta was possibly its slowest: when Parker simmered it down around 11 p.m. for a breezy take on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” One couple up front was so wrapped up in it all that it looked like they were about ready to take his advice.